After dozing off on stage a few times, Social Welfare Minister Syed Mohsin Ali messed up his speech for a programme and said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was Saima Wazed Hossain's paternal grandfather.
“Working together we will prove that what we had not done for your dada [paternal grandfather], we will do that and more for you,” he said apparently to flatter Saima.
In Bangla, paternal grandfather is dada and maternal grandfather is nana and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is actually Saima's maternal grandfather.
Saima is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's daughter.
“If Aung San Suu Kyi can get the Nobel prize for peace, our Putul [Saima's nick name] will bring a Nobel prize for [her work on] the autistic people of the whole world one day. I have that confidence and I am dreaming of that,” he said in his obvious bid to praise Saima for her work on autism.
Mohsin was speaking as the chief guest at the introductory meeting of the newly formed Neuro-developmental Disabled Protection Trust Board held at the conference room of the Department of Social Service in the capital's Agargaon.
On January 27, he drew huge criticism by smoking on stage at a children's function in Sylhet. He had later apologised for it.
On Tuesday, Mohsin had said a law was being formulated to make sure the electronic media had no freedom.
“You are showing [bodies of] Narayanganj seven-murder [victims] every 5-10 seconds and thus inciting people. And that's why such an act is being formulated that you will have no freedom in future,” he had told journalists during a meeting.
Yesterday, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) protested and condemned Mohsin's statement.
In a statement, the rights body said recently Communications Minister Obaidul Quader too expressed resentment against the media.
It said the information ministry had taken an initiative to revive a law which empowered the ministry to cancel declarations of newspapers for publishing anti-state news or news hurting religious sentiments.
ASK believes that this kind of incidents severely curtail media freedom and freedom of speech.
Even though the constitution acknowledges freedom of speech and media, such attacks and threats on the media and journalists are on the rise, added the statement.
“We believe it is very important to ensure freedom of the media for flourishing democratic rule,” it said, urging elected representatives not to threaten the media or journalists.
Meanwhile, addressing yesterday's programme as the special guest, Saima emphasised the need for overcoming social and legal barriers to protect the rights of people with disabilities.
“I have made people aware about autism. Now it's your responsibility to help them by every means,” she told the members of the trust.
Saying that every autistic person is a human being first, she said the trustee board would have to work to ensure the needs of the autistic people to lead a normal life are fulfilled.
Chaired by Social Welfare Secretary Nasima Begum, the programme was addressed among others by Education Secretary Muhammed Sadique, Vice-Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Pran Gopal Datta, and Golam Rabbani, chairperson of the board.